The impact of Brexit
Wild Europe was on the verge of becoming a foundation with fully-fledged legal status, back in June. Then came the Brexit referendum result.
We have since been evaluating alternative ways forward, and are grateful for the highly positive feedback received during a subsequent consultation exercise.
The Endowment Fund will still be developed to provide sustainable finance for basic core costs, and initial grants have already been arranged for key initiatives.
Equally our objectives and activities will not be altered. The threats and opportunities facing natural ecosystems across the continent remain the same. And we will continue to address our agenda with colleagues in non-EU as well as EU countries.
Our overall message, that Wild Europe now has the capacity to operate as a long-term entity to champion wilderness, remains unchanged.
The one element we will need to address is geographic orientation. We will retain an office in London, but over the next two years we will progressively shift our legal and operational centre of gravity into a country with permanent EU membership.
To this end we are currently talking with a couple of partners, and further proposals will be circulated for agreement in due course.
'Re-wilding’ – a wind of change gathers strength in Western Europe
Whilst wilderness is mainly associated with Northern and Eastern Europe, where the prime objective is protection of remaining great areas of natural ecology, this is increasingly complemented by re-wilding of habitats and reintroduction of species in Western Europe.
A growing number of countries are now adopting national strategies for restoration of large-scale natural ecosystems, amid increased awareness of their benefit to conservation objectives and society in general.
Austria has led the fray. In December 2014 it set a 2% target in its 2020+ National Biodiversity Strategy for wilderness and areas with wilderness characteristics. The Wild Europe definition forms the basis for wilderness in the Austrian strategy for National Parks, two of which will have core areas designated to Wild Europe criteria in 2015/16.
France is also moving ahead. A specialist group has been formed within IUCN (from 2012) to assess potential for a wilderness strategy. Also based around the Wild Europe definition, this brings together a range of experts.
More recently, but gaining momentum rapidly, Rewilding Britain was established in December 2014 from a coalition of NGOs, with Wild Europe as a trustee.
Wood energy schemes “a disaster” for climate change
A study published in London on 23rd February 2017 by the well respected Royal Institute of International Affairs warns that most schemes to generate “low carbon electricity” from wood burning are actually doing the opposite, with carbon emissions from wood pellets higher than coal and considerably higher than gas.
Calculations of net carbon savings have not been counting emissions from the actual wood burning, merely assuming that these are countered by the sequestration impact of new plantings – which effectively leaves a large gap.
The Study calls for an urgent review of EU biomass subsidies. This comes in the wake of an investigation by Birdlife International which found significant logging in protected areas of Europe to supply renewable energy installations.
Beaver reintroduction confirmed in Scotland
The Scottish Government announced on 24th November 2016 that the beaver (Castor fiber) has been formally recognised as a native species.
In immediate terms this means that the trial project in Knapdale, on the West coast of Scotland, becomes a permanent settlement which can be expanded. The much larger but ‘informal’ population of some 150 escapees that have been breeding wild on the River Tay in the East can remain.
This also paves the way for further reintroductions, from which the beaver will eventually spread across Scotland - albeit with careful management under the watchful eye of landowners and farmers.
Wide welcome for Wild Europe’s old growth forest protection strategy
Rising timber demand, fragmentation from new transport routes and general development pose threats which are intensifying as the recession ends.
Yet all too often these are tackled piecemeal by conservationists at local level where it is difficult to muster support. Above all, there is insufficient awareness of the value of this habitat.
Wild Europe has assembled a strategy to address these issues. It covers five key areas: policy framework, protective action, management practice, long-term opportunities and funding.
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Full steam ahead for Rewilding Britain
Wild Europe programme 2016/17
2015/16 was another successful year for Wild Europe. In addition to pursuing our core objectives, we have been preparing with our partners to attain foundation status.
The uncertainties facing wilderness and wild areas in 2016 are undiminished, as we address the messages from the “Fitness Check” and witness the impact of ongoing cuts in conservation budgets.
Against this trend, Wild Europe has scored useful achievements in 2015, particularly in advancing the 'wilderness enterprise' agenda. Furthermore, forthcoming Foundation status should enable us to broaden our long-term plans and targets.
Objectives for 2016/17 have now been published. For a strategic outline of the previous year see Achievements & Objectives in 2015/16 More detailed reports are available on request.
CEEweb joins Wild Europe
We warmly welcome our latest new member to the Wild Europe partnership.
CEEweb is a network of nature conservation organizations from Central and East Europe, working together to protect the natural heritage of the region.
Founded in 1994, the network aims to influence policies for enhancement of biodiversity, to promote enforcement of conventions for conservation, and to further the principles of sustainable development.
Some of the largest remaining areas of relatively intact natural ecosystem are located within CEEweb’s geographical remit, and we look forward to liaising with their many experts.